Today we will be focusing on how to properly edit audio files in a digital audio workstation. There are a few things you can do to finesse your projects to keep your audio as clean and undistorted as possible. We will be taking a look at choosing the best takes, controlling the noise floor, fading your audio files in and out and using automation to adjust levels.
Choosing the right take – Whenever you are recording, it goes without saying you will probably be recording and re-recording take after take in search of the “perfect take”, but what happens if you are editing a session and you realize you didn’t get a perfect take? Obviously, the best thing to do if you can is to bring the artist back in to capture a better take, but this isn’t always an option. In this case, your best option would be to create a comp track, or a composite track of several good takes, selecting the best moments from each and blending them accordingly. This can be done by creating a separate audio track, placing it directly above or below the takes and selecting those perfect moments from each take piece-by-piece in order to create a perfect take. This is obviously easier said than done and time consuming, but well worth the time it takes in order to make sure your project is going to be industry-competitive.
Controlling the noise floor – One thing that can ruin a project in a hurry is unnecessary noise in your audio tracks. This will distract the listener from the song entirely and keep them focusing on the negatives, rather than the positives. There are a few things you can do here, depending on the style of music you are working on. Gates are a great way to reduce the noise floor on a track, but you need to be careful in how you apply them. If there is too much audio cutting in and out from over-gating a track, this can distract a listener worse than a steady low-level noise floor. The key here is everything in moderation. If a gate is triggering every single time the hi-hat hits, there will be noticeable and jarring dropouts everywhere. However, if you use a gate on a track that comes in and out as the song progresses, you will be amazed at how much this will remove the unwanted noise floor in tracks that are not in use during that section of the song.
Fading audio files – Another way you can control the noise floor is by fading your audio files in and out when there is no audio on the track. For example, when you have several audio files starting and stopping throughout your session, there will be noticeable drop-outs between files, and you will subconsciously notice the background go from an empty room tone on the file to dead space the moment the audio file cuts out. One good way to avoid this (or at least to stabilize the sound) is to add fades to the front end and back end of each audio file. This way, there will be a smooth fade in/fade out on your audio files, rather than sudden and distracting dropouts.
Adjusting levels through automation – Finally, if you have unwanted noise at tricky spots in your audio files that can’t be solved with a gate, you can use level automation within the file to adjust specific moments that need extra attention. In fact, industry professionals will go as far as automating each and every consonant, vowel and breath if they have to in order to gain complete control over the take and make it perfect. This may sound like a lot of extra work, but this is why pop/radio tracks sound near perfect in terms of sonic quality. The key here is going the extra mile in order to make the session as good as it can possibly be.
Hopefully this will help you to better manage and edit your session while you are working, and show you a few tricks that you can incorporate into your arsenal to get that industry-competitive sound. Make sure to follow us on twitter @iamjambot and @_signaturesound in order to keep up with everything we are doing here at the studio, see ya!